The Scorpion programme, considered by the French Army as its counterpart to the Navy’s “Charles de Gaulle” aircraft carrier, clearly deserved its own press trip. For three days, and at the invitation of the GICAT French land armaments industry grouping, FOB was able to discover a bit more about this programme to renew the tactical battle groups’ major equipment. The €6bn to be allocated by 2033 will irrigate all land defence industries and will contribute to creating 2,700 jobs. For in the shadow of giants such as Nexter, Renault Trucks Defense, Thales, Sagem, are almost 50 SMEs, discrete but essential cogs of the industrial set-up. This article is devoted to three innovative SMEs involved in the development of the Griffon and Jaguar vehicles, which will respectively replace the ERC90, AMX10, VAB HOT, and the 30 members of the VAB family.
Elno, based in Argenteuil, has been active in harsh environment communications since the end of World War II. More than 50% of the 115-person SME’s turnover is from defence contracts across the globe. Elno will provide the “voice” of the future Jaguar and Griffon vehicles with Elips, a new intercom which now has “neither master nor slave,” according to Jerome Deacon, director general of Elno’s operations. Unlike existing systems that link a myriad of boxes to a central control unit, Elno gathered all the features into one Elips housing. The user can thus distribute the intelligence between the different boxes used. Each box is 80% identical, only the channel selection interface and the number of installed packages can vary depending on the mission. With this standardization, Elips therefore has a considerably reduced logistics footprint. The commander will also have a tablet, to be unveiled in June during the Eurosatory exhibition, to allow him to remotely parameter the boxes and establish a scale of priorities. Elno also ensures continuity of communications between the vehicle and the soldier with the P2C (Personal Communication Controller) allowing him to connect directly to the internal network instead of having to switch from one headset to another.
Quiri, based in France’s Alsace region, is a suspension systems specialist, 25% of whose activities are in the military. The family-owned business employs 280 people across France, Germany, Turkey and China. Quiri has been contracted by Renault Trucks Defense to provide the suspension of Jaguar and Griffon. Good suspension brings driving comfort conducive to maintaining the soldiers’ operational capabilities. Imagine the state of fatigue of an infantryman stuck in a cabin for six hours on a bumpy road… For the Griffon, Quiri relied on its 30 years of experience to provide a hydro-mechanical suspension system essentially based on that of the VBCIs, an approach that has helped save time in terms of development and qualification. In an unprecedented move, Quiri partnered with SOBEN, a Toulouse-based SME specialising in innovative shock absorbers, to develop a product that integrates technologies originally developed for motorsports. Designed to operate in difficult terrain, the Jaguar will be equipped with an active suspension. Each of its six wheels will have independent shock absorbers, offering the possibility of creating “suspension modes”. For example, the driver will be able to adopt a “stealth” mode by automatically lowering the set of shock absorbers, and therefore the vehicle’s body, by 60 to 70cm. Both these technologies are evolving as a result of the simulations conducted every two months by Renault Trucks Defense, limiting the number of prototypes and therefore development costs.
Finally, an introduction is hardly needed to Metravib, a subsidiary of the Lyon-based SME Acoem and a pioneer in the field of acoustic detection. Metravib acquired its letters of nobility over 20 years ago when it developed the first sniper detection system “Pilar” at the request of the French army deployed at the time in Sarajevo (Bosnia Herzegovina). The fifth generation of Pilar, currently under development, was chosen last year to become the “ears” of some 500 Jaguars and Griffons. Pilar V, whose design has been strengthened compared with its predecessors, has three essential improvements. First, the computer is now integrated into the central mast which saves a significant amount of space. Then the Pilar V is not only able to detect RPG fire, but also simultaneous shots, and all with increased accuracy. Finally, Metravib technology is now advanced to the point that it can determine the caliber of the weapon used, and even the type of weapon. “And detection is possible even if the shooter uses a silencer,” said Jean-Baptiste Delannoy, regional sales manager at Metravib. “Only fresh snow can affect the propagation of sound waves, and thus the detection capabilities. On the contrary, hardened snow increases wave propagation and therefore the accuracy,” he added. Fully qualified in-house, the Pilar V could even be equipped with a magnetic base, allowing the soldier to install it by simply placing it on the vehicle roof.
You will have gathered, thanks to these three examples that these SMEs, whether subcontractors or direct contributors, represent an essential step of the industrial system mobilised for the Scorpion programme. The latter could not be accomplished without resort to their expertise, always sharp and often unique.